The perfused, pulseless supracondylar humerus fracture (ppSCHF) remains a consistent topic of discussion in the literature. Inpatient observation of these patients postoperatively for worsening vascular exam or compartment syndrome is frequently recommended but not well studied. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the postoperative complications in a cohort of ppSCHF patients and their timeline to discharge.
This study is a retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database of all operatively treated supracondylar humerus fractures from a tertiary pediatric hospital from 2013 to 2019. All patients without a palpable pulse were included. We excluded patients with <4 weeks follow-up. Demographic, operative, and postoperative data were collected, including time from presentation to operating room (OR), time from OR to discharge, and incidence of postoperative complications, including return to OR, compartment syndrome, new neurovascular deficits, and Volkmann contractures. The descriptive statistics were used to summarize the data.
Among 1371 operatively treated supracondylar humerus fractures, 39 (2.8%) presented with a ppSCHF. Five (15%) had a signal on doppler ultrasound, whereas 34 (85%) had no signal. Thirty-seven (95%) patients had a Gartland type III fracture and 2 (5%) had type IV fractures. Twenty-two (56%) patients had a neurological deficit, of which 14 had an anterior interosseous nerve deficit. The average time to OR was 6.9 (range 2.2 to 15) hours; 6 (15%) required open reduction. At the time of discharge, 85% of patients had a palpable pulse and 13% had a dopplerable signal. Postoperatively, no patients were returned to the OR for any secondary procedures. The average length of stay after the operation was 25 (range 8.5 to 40) hours, with 92% of patients being discharged by 36 hours postoperatively. No patients developed compartment syndrome, new neurological deficits, or Volkmann contractures at a mean follow-up of 112 (range 34 to 310) days.
In our study of 39 patients presenting with ppSCHF, no patient required an unexpected return to the OR, or developed post-treatment compartment syndrome, neurological deficits, or Volkmann contractures. The average time from OR to discharge for ppSCHF was 25 hours.
Level of Evidence: